Idiom Watch

  • Competence Porn - This one comes from the venerable technology site Ars Technica as a catchall for our collective admiration of every smart, innovative ass-kicker in fiction from Ulysses to Ellen Ripley. On the one hand the idiom is a good reminder that competence porn is not competency, just as pornography is not sex. On the other hand there are far worse things to fantasize about than being competent, and a generation that seeks to emulate Mark Watney over John Holmes is a generation that inspires confidence.
  • Nobody ever got fired for _____ - In the tech industry the traditional form of this idiom is "Nobody ever got fired buying IBM equipment", a recognition of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD)¹ created by IBM in the 1970's to enforce their monopolistic position in computer hardware. The fear of being fired for defying IBM's death grip was Very Real², as was its counterpart in the 1990's of blaspheming the Microsoft orthodoxy, and the advice was a career cautionary tale of Making It in business in that era. With the eventual decline of IBM at the hands of smaller, lither competition and the disastrous fall of many of IBM's core technology offerings, the elephant in the room was the fact that many of IBM's own employees were fired because of the decisions made by market monopolists at Big Blue who had been blinded to their internal bloat by their own FUD and by the lack of market signaling the climate of fear created. Today the idiom takes on that irony, and when spoken is (hopefully) a different cautionary tale of being overly fearful of at the prospect of losing your job when making controversial decisions that you know are right in the face of commonly accepted market dominance. Conversely, when spoken unironically the idiom serves as a handy shibboleth to inform the listener that they are speaking to a coward.
  • Choice of Protein - Had to throw in a food-related language gripe. The notion that there are more protein-rich foods out there than the usual complement of red, white, or sea-based meats is legitimate and should be captured in our fast-casual food menus (clearly Chipotle's beans and seitan are our go-tos here), but there's still something overly specific about even this generalization of food choices. Dietary fads are infantilizing in their pseudo-scientific smugness, and trifling in their desperate trendiness, with the obsession about high protein meals being no exception. Are we not adult enough, with a long enough view of history, to simply say "Choice of Ingredient"? 

  1. FUD can also be found in Eric S. Raymond's (ESR) Jargon File, between "fuck me harder" and "FUD wars", and the "idiom watch" vein of this blog, along with other topics, can clearly be seen to have drawn influence from ESR. (How's that for passive voice, MS Word 97?)
  2. So real in fact, that the AMC television show "Halt and Catch Fire" devotes their entire first season to it. 

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